Kate Miller-Heidke brings Zero Gravity home

Kate Miller-Heidke brings Zero Gravity home

Alt-pop goddess Kate Miller-Heidke has a voice that is instantly recognisable; whether it’s while singing the fabulously quirky and thought-provoking pop song ‘Caught in the Crowd’, to the glorious ballad ‘The Last Day On Earth’ to angst-ridden love songs with titles like ‘Lose My Shit’. Sustaining a long term career in the music industry, Kate has a diverse repertoire and the ability to seamlessly transition from one genre to the next.

Capturing the attention of millions around the world for her heartfelt performance and the out-of-this world staging of her song ‘Zero Gravity’, which won her first place in her semi-final and a top ten placing at the Eurovision Grand Final in May this year, Kate will be tugging at heartstrings this September as she takes her incredible talents across the country once again.

We spoke early last year when you were on the road with an incredible set of brand new arrangements and backed by The String Quartet; how have you been the past 18 months – besides incredibly busy!
It’s been a bit of a roller coaster ride – lots of interesting collaborations, Muriel’s Wedding the Musical, writing music for a play and of course the intense experience of Eurovision. I’m back home writing new songs at the moment and it’s been a beautiful time to re-centre myself creatively.

This seems to be the key to sustaining a long term career in the music industry, but also you have a diverse repertoire and the ability to seamlessly transition from one genre to the next. Do you endeavour to go out of your way often to learn new things within music and your own abilities? Or is it something that happens organically for you?
I’ve been extremely lucky to have opportunities to work in different genres – and each time I have taken on a project outside of my singer-songwriter stuff, it feeds back into the songwriting and performances quite naturally. The last thing I did was Eurovision, but before that, it was setting Shakespeare’s lyrics to music for Melbourne Theatre Company – and both of those were big learning experiences which of course can’t help but shift your musical compass.

You’re also about to embark on a series of high profile concert dates this September and October, as well as two intimate warm-up shows at the Theatre Royal, Castlemaine and The Memo, Healesville. Why have you decided to include these two regional venues in your tour? Is there something you particularly enjoy about these more intimate shows?
I love playing intimate shows because of the immediacy of connection with the audience. You can feel the music bouncing off the walls, and the physical proximity of everyone in a smaller space has a communal feel. These shows are a chance for me to hone the set list and try out some new stuff for the first time, in a slightly lower-pressure environment than the big room at the opera house!

Within this tour, you will be joined on stage by vocalist Jess Hitchcock, cellist/pianist Isaac Hayward and long-time collaborator/guitarist Keir Nuttall, for a set that encompasses brand new versions of your most beloved material. What’s the process like when you’re re-imagining songs that are so well-loved?
It’s really shaped by the musicians in the line-up. Isaac is a pianist/cellist who has one foot firmly planted in the classical tradition as well as being conversant in rock/pop and musical theatre – he did the arrangements for Keir and my music on Muriel’s Wedding the Musical and he is working on Broadway as we speak. Isaac brings a whole raft of stylistic possibilities to the songs. Jess has such a beautiful voice, and I have the luxury of singing with someone who blends with my verse wonderfully, so we’ve really been exploring that. And Keir has a kind of musically short attention span – he loves playing guitar of all styles, but is grounded in rock and even metal so it adds a rhythmic backbone to the whole thing.

We absolutely loved your heartfelt performance and the out-of-this world staging of ‘Zero Gravity’ at Eurovision earlier this year. What was your favourite part of that whole experience?
Thank you. Certainly creating the song was really fun, having a brief like writing for Eurovision gave us all sorts of fun stuff to play with, from bombastic vocal lines to dancey Eurobeat sounds.
But the best bit was getting to work with Strange Fruit, who are just incredible artists, and have them teach me a little of what they do on those bendy poles. I’m hoping we’ll get to collaborate on a full show together at some point.

You’re renowned for your incredible live shows – how do you prepare for a show?
Lots of vocal warm-ups, lots of hydration and really just trying to keep my own personal energy contained for the whole time you’re not on stage. The goal is to be utterly present for that hour and a half every day and put as much life force into it as you can. I am eternally grateful that people to spend an evening of their life to come to a show, and as a performer you only get one shot at each gig, so you want to make it count.

We believe you’re currently working on your fifth studio album, can you give us a little hint as to what’s to come?
Yes, we are in that wonderful season of writing and arranging songs for the next record – eating, breathing and sleeping it (or not sleeping, but lying awake in bed with songs thrumming incessantly through my head). I’m hoping this album will capture some of the spontaneity and looseness that we have in the live show, while still being a bright and shiny thing. There are a few new things for me as far as themes and lyrics – I feel like I’m on the right track if I manage to surprise myself.

Let Kate’s masterful songwriting and ethereal voice take you where there’s zero gravity. See her at Theatre Royal, Castlemaine – September 18, The Memo, Healesville – September 19, and Arts Centre Melbourne, Melbourne – September 24.

Photo by Jo Duck